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SciTech opens its doors for science-oriented preschool

Ronan Sebold plays with blocks water while classmates Carter Grisenthwaite (left) MikaelOdenjoother side clear plastic panel SciTech Discovery Preschool Thursday

Ronan Sebold plays with blocks in water while classmates Carter Grisenthwaite (left) and Mikaela Odenat join in on the other side of a clear plastic panel at SciTech Discovery Preschool on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011 in downtown Aurora. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 3, 2012 8:37AM

AURORA — The SciTech Discovery Preschool wasn’t treated to just one formal ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday.

Sure there was the standard fare of the giant scissors, all the dignitaries huddled around and SciTech Executive Director Carol Rehtmeyer cutting the ribbon.

But then there was the second ribbon-cutting, the one the preschoolers did, complete with safety scissors, a blue ribbon set lower to the floor and lots of “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd.

“We’re so excited about this program,” said Rehtmeyer, who stressed that this particular preschool will emphasize science, technology, engineering and math in its curriculum.

“Children are sponges, so if we start them learning this young enough, we think they can do so much more than we give them credit for,” she said.

Indeed, Rehtmeyer said SciTech’s new preschool is one of only two STEM-based preschools in the nation and the only one in the world held in a museum.

“These are key areas that we, as Americans, need to focus on and instill in our children because we’re falling behind,” Rehtmeyer said.

The Discovery Preschool at the downtown Aurora science museum still has openings available.

The school is intended for children ages 3 to 5, has a student-to-teacher ratio of a 6 to 1, and can accommodate up to 36 kids. The cost runs $1,200 a month for full-time preschoolers, though part-time enrollment is optional.

Every month the staff will choose a central theme to work with other, humanities-based curriculum, said Cheryl Newman, director of SciTech Discovery Preschool. This month the emphasis is on polar habitat, so a winter-ready tent rests in the rear of the well-lit play area. The books at story time are about life in the arctic, the puzzles are images of polar animals. Even the blocks the preschoolers play with are white and silver this month to emphasize the cold, Newman said.

“I’ve never met a child who doesn’t like science,” Newman added. “But historically, women have taught preschools and historically, women have not been encouraged to follow the math and sciences, so of course that trickles down.”

In addition to the preschool, the SciTech Museum also cut the ribbon on the new SciTech Café.

“Parents can relax, have a drink or work at the Wi-Fi-ready tables, while their kids are at preschool,” Rehtmeyer said. “It’s all about having people leave with that great experience.”

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